• Published 20th Dec 2012
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Cultural Artifacts - Dan_s Comments

A little piece of Earth arrives in Equestria, a human and it's home. The citizens of Ponyville and Princess Luna struggle with this newcomer, as it struggles with them.

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6) Chaos-Ra Sera

Dan's Comments

Cultural Artifacts - Chaos-Ra Sera

DISCLAIMER: My Little Pony is the property of Hasbro, Inc.

Day 17

Rainbow looked at the collection of statues, the site of the missing house, and the collection of ponies she'd come to respect. "Twilight, your Highnesses, I'd like to know one thing," she said as she hovered above statue after statue.

"Certainly, Rainbow Dash," Celestial said.

"WHAT THE HAY IS GOING ON HERE!?" the anguished pegasus cried, tears streaming down her cheeks.

"Rainbow," Twilight chided.

"Twilight, let her go," Celestia said, "Go ahead."

The distraught pegasus looked around. "Okay, a creature we've never seen before just happens to land when the Diamond Dogs are getting ready to lure us out with two fillies. This monster-killer just happens to have hands so it sets up traps to catch Pinkie."

"They weren't games?" Pinkie asked, "But they were fun!" She bounced up and down.

"Then everybody has weird dreams, and only Princess Luna can fix them. Then on the very night of the big party to show all the big-wings that the monster is tame, he gets foalnaped right out from under all three alicorns and all the security. What kind of coincidence is it that it shows us a cinema about a dragon leveling a major city, that a dragon's two students show up to foalnap him? Only Trixie isn't foalnaping him for the dragon, she's foalnaping him so she can get free of the dragon. But there's really an evil unicorn. So while he's healing from the booby-trap; because he screamed, we get more weird dreams, with the princess helping us out, but it might be him too."

"Then, right after Twilight heads away to make sure some new monster doesn't rescue Discord, he gets foalnaped again, while the security forces are all watching, by a fourth alicorn! Who completely disappears. We get the Elements to fight this new monster, who just happens to show up right where Pinkie's Pinkie-Sense says it would. But instead of fighting, it blows up the monster's house and turns us to stone. Except we aren't stone, we're just statues. So that when it does show up with Discord, it merges with him, and frees us. So we can blast all of them. Including the monster!" Dash seemed to run out of breath at that point.

"You aren't confused, you have events well described," Celestia said.

"I don't even know what the hay I'm talking about!" Dash shouted back. "And why did Discord of all ponies tell Twilight to shoot!? Does that mean he can still affect things even when he is stone? Do the Elements really work on him anymore?!"

"And why in tarnation does he look so happy about it?" Applejack added of the heartily laughing Discord statue.

"What you have missed, Rainbow Dash," Luna began as she gathered the frenzied pegasus into her wings and mane, "Is ancient history. Nightmare Moon was a composite of myself, and something else. We thought it destroyed or banished by your use of the Elements of Harmony. We were wrong, and it waited, until it could find a follower, and a host."

"Him?" Twilight asked. "That makes no sense, his whole purpose is to fight monsters."

"Ah, we don't actually know that," Fluttershy offered. "Rarity guessed that, and we all agreed, but that doesn't make it true."

"Sugarcube," Applejack offered, "He took on and beat, all the really big monsters in Equestria."

"I never said he wasn't good at it," Fluttershy offered, "I said that isn't all he was for. And technically, we beat them. He only helped."

"Okay, so this Nightmare sent its followers to collect him, so he could be her host?" Rainbow offered as Luna released her to hover over to her friends, "That still doesn't make any sense."

"The Nightmare was never the wisest creature in Equestria," Luna said, and gave a look to Celestia.

The other Royal sister just pursed her lips.

"So this Nightmare was sending all those bad dreams, as a cover for sending it bad dreams?" Twilight said, "Makes sense. Of course it helped that we thought it was the cause of all the nightmares."

" 'Cept it didn't work," Applejack pointed out. "It was seriously angry, but not scared."

"Well, Trixie reported it did have occasional nightmares," Fluttershy said.

"If this parasite trying to get her claws in it didn't cause all those nightmares," Rarity wondered aloud, "What or who did? I mean what could scare it enough?"

Both Luna and Celestia had coughing fits at that point.

"Hello!" Discord shouted at the prone figure at his feet, and the incredibly boring cluster of copses of trees surrounding him. "Oh no you can't die," he said in a damsel's tones.

"You'd think someone able to arrange a massacre like that wouldn't just curl up and die simply for pulling off a false unicorn horn." Discord looked around. "Okay, show of hands, who says I just let him die?"

Discord cringed. "You aren't too popular with your fans. Okay, show of hands, who wants me to 'help' him survive, and teach him the ways of chaos? That technically is a hand, but I don't find you that interesting." Discord rubbed his hands together. "All righty then, I think ole' Grimplot has a vacation coming on. Considering the only truthful thing about dear Celly he told that peanut gallery he had Twilight Snorfle and the five Moronsketeers zap was about her blowing him up with a mini-sun. She's got to be given the chance to save him. I get to be the 'good guy' and she can get the lesser of two evils. Isn't that a great, fun idea?" he asked. His ears drooped and his eyes narrowed. "I can break that and then you'd learn that you aren't nearly as funny or clever as you think. Oh, if you were wondering why I gave away his little plot, not that plot you weirdos, I just had to have the fun all to myself. After all, they thought they were strong enough to hold me and make me a 'team player'. BLEAGH! I couldn't let his plot unravel, and could I let this upstart claim he put one over on moi? Wouldn't be fun, and wouldn't be sporting. So hey ho! Here we go! All the monsters are lawn ornaments. Except one itsy-bitsy piece of Discord that I stored someplace safe." Discord frowned. "In his head, stupid. If he'd ever seen the show, he would have never let me pat his head like I did."

"Too bad with the link lost, he won't know Equestrian any more, and all the magic he was stealing from Nightmare, all used up. Of course Tear Twirler won't really need her magic, and I just happened to snatch it from her in passing when she was getting sucked up by the Elements of Boringness. As well as Nistag's potion knowledge, and, well you get the idea. I certainly need them more than they do, and it's amazing that simply being able to make things happen doesn't give knowledge of how they have to be done by you pathetic weaklings. And I seem to understand his language, so I can provide a translation." He stared. "What's that? 'Mess up the translations to make it funny.' Oh, I never would have thought of that myself. And the message was written in crayon, how appropriate. Enjoy living in your parent's basement?"

He sighed. "Well, I need to contact ole' Grimplot, and have the other two rubes show off the other little present I left him. You don't think they'll actually go through the door with all the scary warnings do you?" He looked around. "Fine, I'll add a 'please' that oughta stop most everypony."

Twilight was absolutely furious as she read the letters, copies, even Celestia wouldn't trust Twilight's self-control with the originals. "That, that, that!" she exclaimed as she stomped around the slight depression where the monster's house had been.

"Genius?" Celestia asked, before Twilight could ignite. "Imagine getting Nightmare's help to compose a message, and its perfect translation into Equestrian. Quite a help for the later translation work."

Twilight stared at her mentor. "You intend to keep these?" she asked as she shook the letters.

"Of course," Celestia said and smiled. "The first is a good warning that I have been letting my feelings for my ponies hinder their development. And the second is a hilarious concept. Imagine, a potion that turned the monster's people into mind-numbed ponies, and that anyone would think this was a good thing."

"I think the idea would have scared Nightmare," Luna admitted.

"But administered only to those who want it, by the all-loving Celestia?" the Solar Diarch asked innocently, then noticed Twilight grinding her teeth. "As long as it was just an idea to scare the others, it was a good idea."

"How can he think you'd ever accept that?" Twilight growled.

"Darling," Rarity interjected, "He didn't. He just wanted some idea so horrifying that the others would follow along. After all, no 'artiste' wants to admit there is another more talented than she, and Discord wanted others to believe he was an artist. Nightmare and the others were no doubt the same."

"That is really horrifying, Rarity," Rainbow said

"That's rather the point, Rainbow," Rarity replied.

"Has anyone found Trixie or Derpy?" Fluttershy asked, "They were in the house when it went away."

They all stopped. "You don't suppose, he actually killed them, do you?" Rarity asked.

"Oh, yes, we're dead," Trixie said and helped Derpy out of the hole the mage had climbed out of. Her horn glowed and the door set into the ground closed. "That was quite strange."

"You closed the door?" Twilight asked as she rushed over.

"Yes, we opened and closed it several times from the other side, and even waited. It always arrived back here," Trixie explained, "The other side, I don't know where it is."

"So we thought it was better to come back to this side," Derpy added, bowed to their Highnesses, "Excuse me, I want to see Dinky, and him."

"I think that mare has the right idea," Applejack said, "This is makin' my head swim. Let's jist dig up the monster's front door and stand it up somewhere safe."

"Magic doesn't work that way," Twilight explained.

Applejack stood by the door and looked straight back at the Discord statue, it was pointing right at her. "Sugarcube, I think Discord had a bigger hand in this than we thought."

"He couldn't have affected anything, while encased in stone," Luna assured her.

"We could ask him ourselves," Cadence said as she approached with Shining Armor and Glory. She wobbled a little and the two unicorns steadied her. "Yes, Discord, I can hear you. No, I am not calling my aunts that."

Discord watched a smoky ball showing all the others clustering around Cadence. "Oh very funny, they'll be wondering for years what I said. Very good. But I am here, inside his head."

"There's a piece of Discord inside the monster," Cadence told them.

"Why can't you people use his name, if 'monster' is all you're going to call someone, why couldn't it have been me?" Discord complained.

"Jealous?" Cadence asked.

"You will vacate him immediately," Celestia commanded.

"Or what? You'll kill him, to get me? He's already dying because of her Solar Majesty," Discord replied nonchalantly.

"What?" Cadence asked, then turned to Celestia.

"Yes, a week, two at the outside," Discord said, "And I had hoped for longer."

"Discord said he'll be dead in a week or two." Cadence looked around. "And he said Auntie Celestia has something to do with it."

"Celestia?" Twilight asked.

"Oh, Twilight Spackle, always ready to put her mentor on a pedestal," Discord said, "I didn't say she was killing him, at least not directly. Ask Luna what her advisors told her about solar bombs."

"Auntie Luna, what did your advisors say about solar bombs?" Cadence asked, and the Luna Diarch paled.

Luna glanced guiltily at Celestia. "Celestial Dill and Shamrock Dancer survived well enough to interact with the mental world. They explained that he thinks if he steps too far out of place, you'll put a piece of the sun in him. BOOM."

"He WHAT?!" Celestia asked, "How could he possibly think that?"

Luna stared at her, sending the message 'because you could, if you'd ever seriously considered doing it.'

"Discord, why would he think I would do that to him?" Celestia demanded, "I apologize Cadence."

"You get really scary like that," Cadence said, and waited.

"Because he hurt your ponies, even second hand," Discord said, "His letter spelled it out very clearly."

"He hurt ponies, and the letter explains it," Cadence told them, "Auntie Celestia, are you all right?"

"He just arranged the defeat of most of the villain of Equestrian history and prehistory," Rarity asked, "Why would he think Celestia would want vengeance on him?"

"Because he hurt ponies," Rainbow said, "He turned us to stone for one thing."

"I kind of liked being stone," Fluttershy said, "Now that I know I got out of it. It was peaceful."

"Rainbow didn't like the idea of Tank being faster'n her," Applejack joked.

"Ah, good friends enjoying a friendly spot of chaos and argument," Discord said, "Anyway, he's got no reason to return there, so he's quietly slipping out the back door."

"He has no reason to come back, Discord said," Cadence added, "So he's slipping away."

Celestia rolled her eyes. "What would convince him to come back?"

"Well, Celly could play Red Shetland, and lose the fight," Discord suggested.

"Who's Red Shetland?" Cadence asked. When Celestia turned as pink as she was, Cadence decided not to pursue the question. "I think you'd better come up with another way."

"If needs done, showing him that he has an ally and defender, Trixie stands ready," the performer said quietly. "I am also his friend."

"Why do I think this is a game of yours, Discord?" Celestia said, trying to tone down the sharpness in her voice.

"Because it is, but I learned something," Discord said.

"It is, but he learned something," Cadence told them, and rolled her eyes.

"It's called a positive sum game," Discord said excitedly, "It's a game everybody wins!"

"He says this is a game everybody can win," Cadence said.

"It's just you win more," Twilight accused, "Sorry Cadence."

"It's all right Twilight," Cadence replied.

"Of course I'll try to win more, but think, the more you give up, the more you win," Discord said happily, "Is it any wonder I want to keep this guy around, he has such wonderful ideas!"

"I think Discord's in love," Cadence said and giggled.

"Iz, keml regurtsz femherk!" Discord stammered, "I am not!"

"He says 'I am not!'" Cadence said.

"Oh, he found a friend," Fluttershy said as she approached, she smiled happily. "It's so nice when someone lonely finds a friend. And if he can speak his language, they'll be able to be such good friends."

Discord watched Cadence grinning, as if she could feel him vibrating with revulsion. "This is about me spreading Chaos! Not Friendship you ninnies!"

Cadence repeated the phrase, with all the gestures she could almost feel. The others giggled.

"Sounds like a filly with her first crush," Applejack agreed, "All blushes and stammers."

"Oh, don't tease poor Discord," Fluttershy scolded, "He's feeling frightened and embarrassed. His first friend is in danger, and he just doesn't know how to ask for help."

"Then why don't he?" Applejack replied, then looked at the guardedly neutral expressions on everyone around her. "What?"

"No comment," Discord said. Cadence repeated it, and then there was a chorus. Applejack grumbled about that.

"I am willing to risk it," Luna said, "As much as I distrust Discord, I think he's correct that we do owe a favor to the two who helped set this up." Luna looked at Celestia.

"Very well," she sighed, "I don't think we'll be in too much danger. Very well, Discord, what do you have in mind?"

Discord explained. Everypony besides Cadence and Celestia fainted.

"That's what I thought he'd have in mind," Celestia sighed.

"It is, innovative and direct."

"It is." Celestia carefully collected all the fallen ponies. Cadence walked up and leaned against her, both for support, and to offer it.

"Going into his mind is something you've done before," Cadence said, "All three of us have touched it."

"But not as monster-mares," Celestia said. "Is Discord still listening?"

"I think he's too busy laughing himself sick," Cadence said, "His voice cut off in mid-chuckle. I think he really can't reach out here for very long. He seemed in an awful hurry to get his message out."

"Yes, he normally boasts a lot more," Celestia agreed, "He may be limited severely, or his power builds only slowly."

"Or he needs our monster healthy, to channel more of his power," Cadence said.

Celestia glanced back at the statuary garden that had sprung up from the Elements of Harmony. "I think he knows better."

"Dig it up?" Glory asked as she stared at the door that had once been the front door of the monster's house. "How deep do we go?"

"Until you get to the other side," Shining Armor told her, "The door can't be that deep. Then we get a frame to stand it upright, and only then do we explore."

"So why are we in full blast armor, and why are you enclosing it in your force field?" Glory asked.

"Lieutenant, just dig," the Captain said.

Glory manipulated the garden trowel and gently, carefully, fearfully dug at the edge of the door. Moving down one inch. Two inches. Three. Then four. "I think that's the bottom," she told Armor.

"Don't get cocky, remember who we're dealing with."

Even as he spoke, the door jumped up. Just enough to clear the hole and turn slightly sideways to rest on the ground. The echos of filly-like shrieks died away only mockingly slowly. Armor looked at Glory, who looked back. They disentangled themselves from each other.

"Trick of the door that made those noises," the Captain said to the Lieutenant.

"Oh, absolutely, sir," Glory said and saluted. "Can I keep the shovel? I have something I'd like to bury."

"Remember, he's encased in stone, not turned to stone," Armor said.

"Oh, I meant bury," Glory said.

Celestia left Luna to her concentration on preparing the monster and the hospital room. Cadence remained behind to deal with any intruders. She was pleased to see Rarity was up and around, and not giggling about Discord's suggested course of action. If the hospital staff, Ponyville or the rest of Equestria found out about it, she'd be facing years of giggles from the lowest pony to the highest. I may just let it out, she thought, After we get him back. If they are going to put me on a pedestal, they should still be able to laugh around me. Better I spill the beans.

"Your Majesty, may we speak, privately?" the fashionista glanced at the two bodyguards, "Very privately?"

Celestia nodded to the two guards, and the two mares walked into a small storeroom filled with racks of clean linens. The guards took up positions outside to ensure their privacy.

Rarity composed herself. "Your Majesty, please understand this is question I don't need an answer for, but I think you do need to understand it better."

"Ask," Celestia said with a smile.

"Why do you keep picking fights with him?" Rarity asked, as if charging her with heresy. "You are too mature, I mean astute, to be in the grade-school mode of buck the colt you like in the flank to get him to notice you."

"Go on," Celestia told her, and watched her struggle to get the next out.

"Majesty, I sell clothes, fancy frippery. While I'll deny it with my dying breath, no one actually needs what I sell. It makes them feel better. It makes them feel pretty and special, but other than a good set of boots, a rain coat and cold-weather gear, no pony needs fashion. I have to understand what is troubling them, and give them the fashion that makes up for the loss. I am completely satisfied daily going without, because creating is my joy. Wearing is as much advertisement as pleasure and custom. So I can guess remarkably well what a customer wants and needs by just observing."

Rarity continued respectfully, "Trixie keeps going on about trust, I can explain why it struck her so hard. He came in, asking for a formal suit. He specified the color, the austere style, and without any words or further interferences or input, trusted that I would perform miracles, which I did I'm not ashamed to say. That feeling of being absolutely trusted, warmed my heart. You seem to be undermining that between the two of you at every step. Even your puckish sense of humor doesn't explain things. I can't imagine why he'd think one hoof out of step would have you boiling him alive in his own juice, unless he had a good reason."

"What if he does?" Celestia asked quietly.

"Then with all due respect Majesty." Rarity took a deep breath, and said, "Let him die. Let him die a hero who collected all the enemies of Equestria for the last thousand years, and helped banish them. I cannot see why you would be afraid of him."

"Change to 'last three thousand years' and repeat your question," Celestia said.

"The creature 'who collected all the enemies of Equestria for the last three thousand years, and helped banish them' why are you afraid of him?" Rarity said.

"Is that not worthy of fear?" Celestia said, "He fit in with them, gave them a plan that horrified even them while it intrigued them more. He recruited Discord in a matter of moments. You are responsible for yourself and your friends. I am responsible for all of Equestria. Shouldn't I be concerned about such a creature?"

"No," Rarity said, and took advantage of Celestia's stunned expression to continue, "I think Fluttershy may be right. We assumed from what we saw that it was for fighting monsters. Maybe because the only problems it ran into were fighting monsters. Except teaching a foal arithmetic, taking out a stump, putting up a gutter, translating an alien language, and finding the fancy dress to a high-class party." Rarity smirked. "And out-pranking the planet's most experienced prankster. I think its job back home was solving problems. A difficult project would have such people, who had to know machines and people, and how to get them to work. Especially to work together. You no doubt have ponies like that in your employ. His job, and his life may have been all about solving problems. I don't think he'd include 'hurting the people he cares about' in solving problems. He'd only become a problem, if there were no problems to solve, and there are always problems to solve, either in Ponyville or across Equestria."

"What if he decides that I'm the problem?" Celestia asked.

"He'd send a strongly worded letter, which still has you rattled," Rarity replied. "You wouldn't react that way to it, if you weren't afraid it was true. But it does answer your question. He'd call you out on it, and tell you exactly how to fix it. You don't have to ask, your Majesty, he did it, twice. I rather think that's the real reason he sent those letters." She paused and gathered herself. "So when he's still tried to be a friend or at least a loyal subject, why are you getting ready to fight another bout?"

Celestia had no answer.

Twilight walked through the hospital corridor. "Nurse Redheart, any news on our patient?" she asked.

"The patient seems," the nurse stopped as she remembered who she was talking to, "His white cell count and blood pressure are down below what they were when he was brought in. The white cell count is worrying, because we assumed his standard level was what it was when he came in. The blood pressure, considering he was in shock, is also a bad thing. Whether one or both are going into the 'very bad' territory is anypony's guess."

Twilight looked down the corridor at Trixie who was pacing angrily outside the observation room. "Thank you, I think we will be able to help."

The nurse nodded and continued her rounds. Twilight approached the prickly unicorn.

"If you are going to lecture Trixie, Trixie has nothing she wishes to hear," the azure unicorn said.

"I was going to say I'm sorry that your friend is hurt," Twilight offered, "And that he's in the best hooves in Equestria."

"And obviously mine are not," Trixie said, "Thank you." Then she stopped. "Trixie, I apologize, that was uncalled for."

"I can understand you are worried," Twilight offered.

"Unless that was both your brother and Celestia in there, and you unable to help them, I don't think you can understand," Trixie said quietly, "If Celestia sets an impossible task for you, you can at least assume her test is offered out of love. For me, it is a way to earn my supper. I doubt you thought one moment about me once I'd left. You had your friends, possibly a special somepony. I was alone. From all my research on you, you never cared about silly things like friends. I was denied them. There is a great difference between not eating because you aren't hungry, and starving because there is no food to be had."

"And suddenly, someone gave you a banquet," Twilight said.

"I wasn't simply a trick pony. Someone needed me. Someone who trusted me, who rescued me from a stupid, possibly fatal, mistake now needed me." Trixie smiled. "It was more than a banquet. It was warmth and softness, and feeling fed full for the first time in so long. And everything any pony said about how dangerous he was, only strengthened how special I was to him. I wasn't afraid. He trusted me, and I trusted him."

"I didn't realize," Twilight admitted.

"Because you still see mainly the books he brought. Not that there is a person involved with those books. Because the person frightens you," Trixie said, "I was made his servant, until he is well. And I do not deny that I will be fed, housed, clothed, and may even have the wagon I lost here replaced. But none of those things competes with the simple warmth of a touch, of a smile when I come into view, or the feeling of his nightmares and bad dreams departing at the sound of my voice, or with my touch."

"I can imagine," Twilight said, "But that's all I can do. I never had that. Ponies relied on me, but never like that."

"You should think about your mentor," Trixie said, "I think she is as lonely as I am. You note how eagerly she joined in your slumber party."

Twilight blushed and tried several times to counter Trixie's statement. Finally, she just shook her head.

The doors opened and Luna stepped out. "We are ready." Celestia came down the corridor with Rarity. Rarity waved and departed. Her Majesty seemed lost in thought.

Twilight gulped and nodded, then admired Trixie's poise as she walked in, seemingly without a care. She's going to rescue her friend. How would I feel on such a trip to save Applejack, or Shining Armor, or Cadence? Probably just that way, Twilight thought as she followed. Inside the room, to keep her mind off the eye-watering sigils on the walls, Twilight stared at her mentor, Luna and Trixie. The trio took their places in a set of carefully drawn mystical circles. Cadence stood guard to prevent anyone from disturbing the ritual that would let Luna carry Celestia and Trixie into the comatose creature's mind.

"Last chance to withdraw," Celestia offered.

"Trixie is quite tired of being compared to your apprentice and being found wanting. Trixie shall go, stay behind if you wish, your Majesty, but Trixie shall go on," she said politely.

Twilight noted the smirk from Luna and the raised eyebrow of her sister. Trixie matched the alicorn stare for stare.

"You two can have a staring contest later," Cadence said, "There's a rescue to be done, and I think some kinder words that need to be said."

Twilight watched her mentor 'break off ' the stare and give Twilight a wink that Trixie couldn't see. She stifled her laugh, and watched Luna begin her spell. Her jaw dropped as Luna broke at least six rules of basic spell casting with her opening incantation, and another seven before she was done.

"Ah good, you're awake," he heard as he opened his eyes. He didn't see anyone, unless the trees and the clouds were talking.

"Oh joy, my recursive psychotic episode has a narrator. I was wondering when I'd go crazier," he said as he looked around. The colors were Earth normal. Except the sky. The single shade of brilliant blue went from horizon to horizon. Yet the trees, and grass and the clouds were all normal. "Okay, I'm out, or I'm deeper in."

"Oh, a guessing game," he heard, and looked a full 360, seeing no one and nothing that could obviously speak. "I guess, deeper in, what do I win?"

He vaguely recognized the voice. "Look, maybe I'd better tell you. I never thought you were that funny in Next Gen. Menacing, dangerous, yes, but not funny. The only time you were funny in that role is the CD where you got absolutely pawned by Spock. That was hilarious. You were also pretty funny as that medic in the Six Million Dollar Man. I also liked you as the Central European inventor who was helping MacGyver become Jack O'Neil, that was hysterical."

"And people call me random," the voice said, "Ah, one of you out there want to throw ole' Discord a bone? What is he talking about?" There was a pregnant silence. "You'd think somepony out there would know. Look, we're stuck with each other, I put myself in your head because I was bored."

"Boy are you in for a disappointment," he replied, "Actuaries think I'm boring. My whole career was boring. Of course when you're working with red, fuming nitric acid and various hydrazines, with a few, hundred-million dollars riding on it, boring is good."

"Ah, not a clue," the voice said, "Anyway, that fun little trick you dropped on all those losers, comedy gold!"

"Thank you, and I appreciate your assistance, after you blew the lid off it," he said and looked himself over, "I guess clothing was optional on this trip."

"What is this fascination you have with clothing anyway?" the voice asked, "You're the only member of your species on Equestria. It's not like one of the locals will fall desperately in love with you. Most of them would only be vaguely interested. Oh, there's a birch tree over there, you should be able to strip the bark off in - hey, I was kidding!"

"I wasn't," he replied as he started walking. "If you were trying to depress me, you succeeded. So, how come you understand my language?"

"I read it out of your evil, little mind," the voice said happily, "I just realized, I can translate for you!"

"Terrific, I land in Gotham City and the Joker is my translator." He pulled a large section of the bark off and considered how to make a breechclout. "Will the blessing never cease?"

"Who's 'the Joker'?" the voice asked.

"Let's see, a trepaning spoon shouldn't be that hard to find," he said.

Celestia looked down at herself and sighed. I knew I was facing Discord's rules, and I should have expected his, she thought as she gave herself a good once-over. Okay, if I assume the hero monster-mares in Rarity's book are considered generally to highly attractive, and many of the villainous monster-mares are attractive, then the bumps, curves and symmetry I have make me a fairly attractive monster-mare. The mane, wings, tail and horn probably are enough to make me exotic, rather than hideous. Terrifying, I seem to have achieved without regards to my appearance, she thought sadly, then grimly added, Knowing Discord, I'm probably as comely to monsters as most ponies consider my natural form. She frowned at the next thought, So, since I read all of Trixie's reports on monster customs, taboos and reactions, do I charge down to confront our monster, traumatize and antagonize him, in hope that Discord dies laughing? No, I think approaching him, let alone confronting him wearing only boots, vambraces and my tiara is a bad idea. Even if I went the 'Red Shetland' route. 'No stallion shall have me unless they can defeat me in battle.' And I'd only consider that if I was sure his breed followed the bonobos and not the chimpanzees.

She drew her wings in tight, craned her neck, and saw that her 'mane' lapped over her tail. At least he left me that, she thought, I guess I've always been a little vain about those. Then she smiled. Okay, that's the answer, to both problems.

She cut away a large part of her tail, so it stood at knee-length rather than brushing the ground. From the hair she let her magic weave a tight, short-sleeves shirt and short pants like the monster often wore under its outer clothing. All right, that works, it even feels kind of nice. She smiled and set off in pursuit of her 'prey'.

"Look, I just want to learn about chaos, you seem to be so innovative in its application. I would have never thought to 'beep' Missy Grimplot at a high diplomatic function. I can feel the ripples of that, and do you have any idea how good that feels? Ponies, eagerly spreading chaos!" the voice explained, "I just had to see who was doing it, and how."

The voice paused. "What, no response? I pour out my heart to you, and you can't even cheer?"

He looked around the forest, searching for food, shelter, and a source of clean water. The buzzing in his head was only vaguely annoying.

"Look, I want to be your apprentice, your helper, your wingman, and learn all I can about what you know about chaos."

A running sapper outranks a field marshal, he thought, since ignoring the noise hadn't worked yet.

"That's a good one, what's a sapper, and what's a field marshal?"

So much for that, he thought, then dove into a gully.

"What, did you see something?" the voice asked worriedly.

Right there, he thought, And can you keep it down? She nearly heard us.

"Only you can hear me, until my strength returns, and that may take a while," the voice explained, "Oh, she's just delivering your clothes. I knew you'd want some, so I arranged a delivery. Better than what you tore off the tree."

He felt an eyebrow twitch and could only hope it was an impending stroke.

"Ah, why are you hiding?" the voice asked.

It may not be on all fours, but a winged unicorn with that color scheme has not exactly been friendly, he replied.

"You actually think she'd stick a sun in your guts to watch you boil up and pop?" the voice asked incredulously, "She isn't that vicious, believe me, I know."

He answered the voice with silence as he watched the creature running for a short sprint, then resting and looking around. Great, I tried to run a distance and nearly collapsed, even if I run, it'll easily chase me down. I don't stand a chance.

"Look, far be it from me to sing the praises of the Grand Imperial Harumph, but she isn't like that. Believe me, I know."

You might just be unkillable. None of the rest of those monsters were adults, they were kiddie terrors. How do you think I played them so well? I can be the real thing. She knows that, and I've got the hoofprints in my brain to prove she's been stomping around in there. An 'accident' while I'm in here, and suddenly her problem is solved.

"Look, while I am deeply jealous of the amount of screaming paranoia she's managed to instill in you in such a short time. Even I have to admit, it's uncalled for. She isn't going to kill you, and she isn't going to hurt you."

Experience points to the contrary, he replied.

"Why are all the interesting ones completely crazy?"

Luna looked herself over and only managed to avoid screaming 'Discord!' at the top of her lungs. Trixie seemed less put out being a monster mare with a mane, tail, and horn than she was. The rest of the dream/mindscape was lightly forested, colored like the monster's yard, and very pleasant. Trixie did spot the one thing Luna had wrongly dismissed.

"We're naked," the show mare exclaimed.

"That's a problem?" Luna asked as she checked to see her tail and wings still worked. "I prefer it to all the ridiculous clothes the stuck up snobs of Canterlot prefer.

"Did you read my reports, or just forward them to your sister?" the unicorn exclaimed, blushed and turned away.

"I get enough paper across my desk every day to choke a dragon," Luna explained crossly, "Why don't you tell me what's so important, and why are you changing color?"

"Mutual nakedness is the next to last step in their mating dance. We show up like this, and he's going to assume only one thing," Trixie explained miserably, "Like taking the last step."

"It is easily remedied," Luna assured her. "Why are you changing color, are you blushing?" she repeated.

"You, you are naked, and so am I," Trixie stammered, "And you are, quite lovely."

"How would you know?" Luna asked, then proclaimed, "And we are not in a mating dance!"

"I don't know how I know, I just know," Trixie exclaimed.

"I thought you were interested in stallions," Luna said carefully as she stepped away from the show mare as she was also noticing geometries and structures on her fellow Equestrian that drew her eye unbidden.

"Trixie can appreciate beauty, especially uncanny beauty," Trixie said, her back still turned and her coloring still darkening from a light azure to a deep indigo.

Luna considered the back, and the blush were quite lovely. Then she focused on the matter at hand. "Very well. We shall be properly clothed," Luna said, gestured with her horn, then looked around. "This may be more difficult than I thought."

Fluttershy had gotten worried about Rainbow Dash's sudden departure from the hospital and headed to Rainbow's cloud home. She discovered that Derpy had been heading that way as well, so she silently followed. Until Derpy ignored the door and flew straight in an open window.

"Derpy! No!" Fluttershy called, looked around guiltily, and followed her in.

Derpy was standing in front of Rainbow Dash. The normally dynamic pegasus was lying on her floor, her forelegs extended in front of her, and Tank resting on her hooves. Her fur was matted where she'd been crying. The cyan pegasus and her pet tortoise were exchanging worried looks.

"Rainbow Dash, are you okay?" Derpy asked before Fluttershy could.

"We're sorry we didn't use the door," Fluttershy offered.

"I knew you wouldn't open it," Derpy said.

"It's okay guys," Rainbow said quietly.

"When you left, I got worried," Fluttershy said as she slowly approached.

"I'm okay Fluttershy, just confused," Rainbow said, still staring at Tank. "I mean, did Nightmare bring the monster here?"

"Yeah, to distract us from what it was doing," Derpy said cheerfully, "You see that's its sinister plan. It failed with her Highness, so it sought out a brave, fearless stallion without magic to bond with him. And only the love of a single-mother pegasus for her coltfriend can redeem him from the lure of absolute power. Sarah Selene wrote it all out a few months ago, The Nightmare's Return! I've got all her books! Well, both of them. I wish I could meet her someday. I know it's just a nom de plume, I mean who names their filly 'Sarah'?"

Sarah Selene? Fluttershy thought, then giggled.

"What's so funny?" Dashie asked, finally showing some spirit.

"Well, I think someone else is feeling more put out than you are," Fluttershy managed between delicate giggles.

Rainbow Dash checked Tank's propellor then set the tortoise in the air. "So you're telling me that all this happened in a book, and you think it's all fine because you're a character in a book?"

"Oh course not," Derpy countered, "I'm not dumb. It just that Princess Luna must have read the book, and when she sticks to the plot in the book, everything works out."

Rainbow facehooved. Obviously frustration trumped depression. "Look, what I really want to know is who are all those guys? Discord and Nightmare I got, but all the others? Why were they teaming up with Nightmare, and why would Discord side with us against them? He's got to have a scheme, and we've got to be ready, or someponies are going to get hurt."

"They were in the statue gardens. When Dinky went with Miss Cheerilee's class, she got a brochure on all the names. I'm sure Twilight can look them up for you."

"Okay, how many more monsters like this are out there?" Rainbow asked.

Derpy smiled and shrugged. "But you and our monster will deal with them."

Rainbow sighed and shook her head, then started at the still giggling Fluttershy. "Do I even want to know?" she asked her.

"Thank you again, they're beautiful," Trixie told Luna as she examined the leotard and skirt combo Luna had made for both of them from shortening up their manes and tails.

Luna sighed as they walked along. "You gave up lots of your mane and tail to get them," Luna said as she looked over her own outfit, and looked away from the blushing unicorn. Then she realized Trixie was looking at something else, and she nearly blushed herself. "Is that Celestia?" Luna breathed.

"She's so . . . " Trixie said.

"She certainly is," Luna agreed as she moved up beside Trixie, and noted how nice she smelled. "I am going to KILL Discord for doing this."

"The monster's people must go in for more visual cues than ponies," Trixie explained distractedly, just watching Celestia walk, perfect in grace and form. "Like a sunrise after a long storm," Trixie offered.

"Like forgiveness after loneliness and nightmares," Luna agreed dreamily. "Uh, do we stay up here and watch, or go down and, ah, Trixie? Trixie? Equestria calling Trixie!" She waved a hand in front of the unicorn and got no response. "Oh wonderful."

Shining Armor's sapper team carefully slid the frame over the door to hold it upright. Where to secure the frame to the ground was the next question. Leaving it in the middle of the now disconnected grounds was not recommended, at least in the short run. "It has to be somewhere where people won't knock it over," Shining Armor said. He'd already fended off his sister's 'puppy dog eyes' and her suggestion to place it inside the library. Inside or outside Sugarcube Corners was also nixed for similar reasons, and rejected under similar duress.

"I'm almost tempted to take it out to the old castle of the Pony Sisters and bolt it to a wall out there," Armor admitted to the team. "But then the creatures of the Everfree might wander in uninvited."

"I'm more worried about the back," Glory said as she circled the door. The back of the door was there, sort of, but it wasn't a door. It wasn't a flat surface, just a clearly defined boundary layer that couldn't be penetrated, and didn't react to anything. "I had them swat the back with a sledge. Nothing transmitted through to the front, but taps on the side did."

"If Discord had a hand in creating this, I think we should leave the 'hows and whys' to their Highnesses. Our job, once it is secure, is to discover where on Equestria the house actually is," Armor said, "Then the fun really begins."

"I can't wait," Glory said, "Derpy said it looked like the inside of a geode. There's only one place I know of that description fits. If it is where I think it is, we may have to keep where the house resides a serious secret."

"My lips are sealed," Armor said.

Celestia had approached slowly, letting the monster watch her. I felt Discord the instant I scanned for him, a little triangulation and I had him. I just wish I knew why they haven't moved. Is it a trap? Without any tools, could they build a trap? she wondered, and entered the gully they were hiding in some distance away from their actual location, and picked her way along. Okay, now they run, but not very fast, lure me into an ambush? she thought and smiled, Not likely. She jumped up and ran along the raised ground beside the gully, overtaking the cantering monster, and calling down into the gully to him.

His eyes went wide as he scrabbled to a stop before colliding with the wall at a sharp dog leg. He looked up at her, his expression a mixture of fear and determination. She began noticing things. Things that hadn't draw her attention before. His little pout. All his nervous uncertainty.

She shook off the list of traits and returned to the original plan. She collected the long trail of her mane and sliced it off. The remains fell just to mid back. She felt his eyes on her, a curiosity with near physical force. She steeled herself against the Fluttershy-level preciousness and completed the garments woven from her own hair. She tossed them down to him: a short shirt and shorts. He turned his back on her to change into the shorts. She silently slipped into the gully. She found his movements and skin held an odd fascination, especially the slight clumsiness and uncertainty of his movements. She approached as he pulled the shirt over his head. She was just out of arms reach and grinning when he turned back to face her. His shocked look was the most delicious vision yet.

DISCORD! he shouted within his own head as he backed away from Celestia's human form, her very human and very goofy grin, and whatever she was saying to him. Discord! he mentally shouted again. Only a sound like cabinets opening and closing answered his summons.

"You wouldn't want to tell me where the brain bleach is, would you?" came the voice, in a slightly pleading tone.

Brain bleach, what's going on, what's she saying? he demanded, I'd take even a warped translation right now. He was carefully stepping away from her, and she was carefully keeping the distance constant, just out of arms reach for both of them.

"I'm not listening to her," Discord replied in a sing-song tone. "Where is the brain bleach?"

Brain bleach doesn't really exist. Is she dangerous, can you answer that? he mentally shouted. He'd been backing up from the seemingly inebriated creature, who'd kept just out of arm's length. Pausing in her pursuit when he dashed and ran out of breath, but never close enough to grab or touch him.

There was a sound like someone dumping over a barrel full of pots and pans, and glasses. It ended with the yowl of a cat.

"Ah, a flamethrower! Perfect!" the voice shouted happily. A loud whoosh later, he explained, "No, she's perfectly safe. You could probably bite her on the, er, nose, and she'd think it was delightful. But I must admit, I made a teensy mistake. You'll laugh I'm sure."

Spill it, he thought. He realized he was at the end of the gully, but the steep sides prevented an easy climb out. Celestia was still keeping a minimum distance, and seemed completely content to watch him struggle to climb the crumbling walls. When he slipped suddenly, a strong hand planted on his butt and pushed him up and over, accompanied by a fangirlish squeal from Celestia. She jumped up easily, and kept her distance.

"Well, you see, you two were so highly strung, I thought it would be fun to say, direct all that energy to a more amusing goal. After all, I could control the way you all appeared here. So is she beautiful?"

An absolute knockout, give her a dark wig and she could star as the next Wonder Woman, but she's also seven-foot-nine, not counting the horn!

"She assumes she'll tower over others, I can't change things held that strongly. But I could change little things. I wanted to ensure you both found each other utterly fascinating."

You put a love spell on her? he thought.

"Don't be gauche! Aside from not working, it would ruin the mood when she broke it. No, I knew you'd find her wonderful and once you weren't afraid of her killing you, you could let her natural warmth get to that rocky stone you call a heart."

What. Did. You. Do? he repeated as he moved back and the transformed creature smilingly kept pace.

"I made certain parts of you, more attention worthy. Not warped or enhanced them, just little tweaks that catch the eye. I knew what caught Celestia's eye and it was easy. But I left out the passage of time, and your human psychology. Silly mistake really. It's a simple explanation."

Ex - plain, he said as clearly as he could. He'd backed against a tree to catch his breath. She put one hand on either side of his head and leaned close. He could look at her grinning face, or her generous cleavage. He ducked under her arms and ran as fast as his winded condition allowed. Her bell-like laughter was a lash to keep moving despite the stitch in his side and the stiffness of his legs.

"What she used to find very virile and arousing, ah, she now thinks is cute. Ponies aren't into cute like you humans, so I over did it. Thus, you're very cute, adorably cute, cloyingly cute -"

I get the message, he thought as he'd stopped trying to retreat, and Celestia just stared at him from out of reach. He sagged to the ground and tried to catch his breath. So, you tried to turn me into a stud muffin, and I wound up a tribble, he thought calmly, That's what you're saying?

"If I understand the words, basically yes. You're in no danger. She's hardly the type to step on an endearing puppy, even if it nips at her."

Thank you, he thought as he watched her sit down and watch him with mesmerized expectancy, See, all you had to do was explain it.

"You aren't mad?" the voice asked hopefully.

I just needed to understand the problem, he thought calmly, Then I can put myself in the proper state of mind to deal with it.

"Oh good, I'm glad you aren't angry," Discord said.

Anger and vengeance serve no purpose. Now I have to prepare for a moment, he thought as a feeling of culmination filled him, The right frame of mind. I'm ready.

La la la-la la la, sing a happy song.

La la la-la la la, Smurf it all day long.

"AUUUGH!" Discord screamed.

Celestia nearly laughed with joy. Patience, she thought as he moved slowly closer to her, she tried hard not to fidget or betray any signs of her anxiousness. She couldn't keep from grinning however. She tried to tone it down, but then he'd do something so adorable and she just wanted to throw royal decorum to the wind. You two have to make peace, she reminded herself sharply, reduced her grin to something less idiotic and let him move closer again. Inch by nervous inch.

Sitting down, scooting across the ground, he looks so little, and so cute, she thought. Patience, let him come to you, she reminded herself. He'd been in range of a wing-grab since she'd entered the gully, at the tree she'd wanted to pinch his cheeks so bad she could have tasted it, now he was easily in arms' reach. Still she didn't give into her impulse to just reach over and grab him. Tempting as it is. I wonder, is it my 'monster-mare' perceptions that are letting me see him this way. Or that I'm bigger than he is and he's dropped the pretensions to power. She briefly considered making herself seem smaller by lying flat on the ground. No, don't move, he's all right. This isn't an animal, it's a person. She remained sitting cross-legged, and forced her wings to stay at rest instead of shifting with her hidden laughter and delight.

He finally stopped, barely a quarter foreleg's length away. He stared at her. As if ready to accept whatever dire fate she had in store. She reached out to him, and he froze and briefly closed his eyes. Helpless, but determined to meet his fate bravely, she thought as her hands closed on his arms. His expression showed he assumed she'd tear him limb from limb. Instead, she collected him and put him in her lap. She let her wings and arms encircle him, then she leaned down. I feel a little like a clam, she thought, missing being allowed to cuddle and protect somepony, like this. When Twilight got 'too grown up' for this, I don't think she realized how much that hurt. Nor did I, she thought as he slowly unclenched.

"You big silly," she said fondly.

Trixie watched from their little hill top, her elbows on her knees. Tears of joy trailed down her face. "It's so wonderful," she said quietly.

Luna felt like beating her head on a rock, but she'd been unable to find one bigger than a pebble. "It's not supposed to work that way. This has to be Discord's work."

"If they get to be friends, finally," Trixie asked, "What does it matter?"

Luna briefly considered a more attractive head-to-rock option. Instead, she sighed. "It's got to be a trick some way."

Discord lay on the floor, bleary-eyed, with little nervous twitches. "La la la-la la la, Now you know the tune. La la la-la la la, You'll be Smurfing soon! Ha, ha ha," he said quietly.

Trixie looked at the two of them, sitting companionably side-by-side. Her Majesty's slightly proprietary look didn't detract from Trixie's own joy. Luna, marching along behind looked ready to chew glass.

"Are you all right, my sister?" Celestia asked.

"Am I all right?" Luna asked tiredly, "I was just wondering if my sister had gone mad. Or if I had. I've never seen you act that way. Towards anyone."

Celestia smiled as she smoothly stood up. "I can remedy that."

Trixie took the opportunity to sit beside him. He smiled at her, then pointed from her mane to her clothing.

"Yes, we cut them off for cloth," she replied, "They'll grow back."

He seemed tired, but kept glancing at the two sisters. Luna was backing away, and now Celestia started chasing her. Soon both were at a dead run, then they took to the air. The two of them dodging and weaving over the sky. Then came the cries, screams and screeches. Trixie stood, ready to intervene, when he pulled her back down and made a dismissive sound and gesture.

"They sound like they're killing each other," Trixie said, then realized how long the sound had been going on, and she leaned against him to wait.

After nearly half-an-hour, the elder sister, victorious, triumphant, and afflicted with giggles carefully carried her limp and gasping younger sister back down. Trixie and the monster held Luna's head as the trio lowered her to the ground.

"I am not defeated," Luna insisted in a blurred mumble. "Just, catching my breath."

Trixie caught the monster's eye movement towards Celestia, and the smile. Her Majesty was too tired to catch it. Trixie shook her head slightly, and received an evil glare. Only when he started walking to the still-winded alicorn did Trixie scramble to keep up.

"Princess Celestia, I think that's seriously lese majeste," Trixie said carefully.

"Oh, and who will know?" Celestia asked, then remembered the two biggest imps, not her, in Equestria were sharing a brain. She never made it off the ground.

Twilight had watched her mentor rouse herself. Celestia looked happier and more carefree than she'd seen her before. And not the 'oh nothing is bothering me' mask she always wears, Twilight thought.

Twilight and Cadence listened with delight about some very foalish activity between the two sisters. Chases, and tickle fights, and slumber parties and just hugging each other. Twilight sighed. Cadence sighed. Rarity sighed. Applejack sighed. Pinkie Pie sniffled happily.

"How long have you been standing there?!" Twilight shouted.

"Easy, Sugarcube." Applejack made placating gestures. "Y'all are gonna throw a shoe."

"About the point where he started a splash fight between their Highnesses, and then got out of the way," Rarity said. "I'd say you two had a lovely time. Although the idea of Discord being the genesis of such a lovely outing seems oddly out of place."

"It seems he is 'studying' chaos under the tutelage of our friend here," Celestia explained, "Controlled chaos. When our friend here started 'beeping' ponies, and they took the joke to every corner of Equestria, poor Discord was shaken to his roots. It seems that when he felt ponies actually embracing chaos, he had to adapt, or die. Literally."

"Couldn't happen to a nicer fella," Applejack said. "Ah still don't trust him after all he did 'round here."

"I agree," Celestia said, "But I think he's up against someone a good deal more random, and a good deal more organized."

"Twilight?" Pinkie asked, then giggled.

"I am not random!" Twilight said.

"She wouldn't have teased you about it, if she thought you were," Rarity said, "But you can get so organized and meticulous, you sort of break through the wall and wind up on the other side."

"That's always fun," Pinkie said, "Except when there are lobsters. Ooo! Lobsters! Do you think he likes lobsters," Pinkie briefly paused, "Somepony cover Fluttershy's ears."

"Animals eat each other," Fluttershy said quietly, "Just because I don't like it, doesn't mean I don't know about it, and why. He eats meat, dogs and cats would get sick if they didn't."

"Okay, then he might like eating them?" Pinkie said with some trepidation.

"Perhaps," Celestia said.

Luna roused herself, and stretched like a cat. If she'd had claws, she would have extended them. Trixie seemed to be awakening with the same predatory characteristics.

"Trixie would enjoy doing that again," the performer said happily. "Especially the nights."

"Yes, I too enjoyed our night time activities," Luna agreed as she stretched out her wings and gave a sensual growl.

"Night. Time. Activities?" Twilight asked, her eyes wide and ears laid flat against her skull.

"Sometimes we did it several times," Luna said.

"Three, four times a night," Celestia said.

"More like six or eight, if you count everypony's," Trixie suggested. "If I was with him, you were with Luna doing the same. Or I with you and Luna with him."

Celestia nodded. "That night we were all together, how many times did we do it?"

"Twelve," Luna said.

"Twelve!" Twilight squeaked and looked worriedly at the unconscious monster.

"Twilight, only a few times that night were we all together. Mostly we paired off and compared afterwards."

"Compared?" Twilight asked in strangled tones.

"Maybe we could ask Twilight to participate," Trixie suggested, "No, she would have to unlearn all that those books say."

"Yes, but all her friends, add Shining Armor, Big MacIntosh," Celestia mused as she considered.

Twilight looked on the verge of apoplexy.

"And then the Cutie Mark Crusaders, with Derpy and Dinky as well, maybe Cheerilee and the entire class," Luna said, "It would be educational."

"NOW HOLD IT!" flaming Twilight insisted as she hovered over the floor, "My friends are adults, but children should not be included in such, such, games, even if it is educational!"

"Darling," Rarity said and frowned at her Majesty, "This is Princess Celestia after all."

"Your mentor, and the prankster," Celestia said, "I would apologize, but assuming we would start acting like bunnies or minks in heat after just knowing each other a few days is rather insulting, to us all. We were referring to star gazing and coming up with new constellations. With a different star-field every night, we did it every night."

"Oh," the non-flaming Twilight settled to the floor. "I thought you meant . . . "

"We did that too," Trixie said, "But mostly during the day."

Twilight caught on this time. "What exactly?"

"Snuggled together as we slept," Trixie said, "We adopted a nocturnal existence when the regular, full moon provided sufficient light to see by, and for some reason the bad dreams were less intense under the sunlit sky."

"I apologize," Twilight said, "I thought . . . "

"They sure made it sound like they did," Applejack offered, "Had me fooled."

"I never said we didn't do that," Luna said, "But I will neither confirm, nor deny which, what and who."

"Oh, no," Rarity said as she shook her head, "We aren't falling for that, you could be talking about a fish fry, or mutual massages, or giving each other rides on your backs, or thumb wrestling for all we know. With respect your Majesty, your Highness." Rarity bowed to each and waited for Celestia's nod. "But what you went to deal with, did that occur? Or should I start on funeral bunting for the entire town?"

"No, he and I have not quite eliminated our differences, but I don't think he'll expect me to blast him into sizzling bits any time soon. And just to tell you the truth, Discord attempted to alter each of us to ensure exactly the results Twilight suspected. He was too much of a gentlecolt to take advantage, despite ample opportunities. And with me, Discord made him too cute rather than conventionally handsome."

"I think you enjoyed cuddling him at every opportunity," Luna accused, "But knowing he was safe from your wrath was no doubt healing."

"I apologize your Highnesses," Twilight said, "With what Discord did to all of us, I mistakenly thought anything and everything he touched would be tainted and degraded." She turned to Trixie. "And I apologize to you as well."

"There is no need," Trixie replied a hint sharply, "What we did or did not is immaterial. It was a dream, and all in this room have had those kinds of dreams. To answer your prurient curiosity, if the matter was ever raised, Trixie would have assured correct understanding, and said 'yes'. We trust one another, and understand one another better than their Highnesses. There would be no question of issue, only that vulnerability emotional or physical would not be taken advantage of. In fact, would be guarded. Cuteness, handsomeness would play less a part than we were for once the same species with the same needs and desires."

"Okay," Rainbow landed between the two unicorns and pushed them apart, "That's enough of 'let's wind up Twilight' for one day. I think you're all talk, and that slap and tickle is as far as you went. You keep going on and on about trust, well trust also means letting the guy say 'thanks, but no', and respecting his decision and not turning away from him for that. And if Discord suddenly gave me a pack of gorgeous stallions and a place on the Wonderbolts with them, all I'd be is suspicious."

"Believe what you wish," Trixie said.

"Yeah, I will, thanks," Rainbow said as she led Twilight away.

"I didn't think you'd get into a situation like that," Twilight whispered.

"Yeah, first, adult, mare-stallion thing, he said wait, so I dumped him," Rainbow whispered back, "Stupid."

"Sorry," Twilight said.

Rainbow shrugged. "Besides, you can ask your brother and that sergeant what they'd do in the same situation. I bet it'd do the same thing they would."

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